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Old 07-03-2019, 08:40 PM
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Democratic Debate Graphic

FiveThirtyEight had a nice data table in their new article where they compare the participants against the expectations of their fans but, more importantly, show how much the fans of one person liked a different person:

With this information, we are able to get some sense of the distance of each person from other candidates and fudge together a complete graph of how similar/dissimilar the options are, so far as the voters are concerned. Basically, we treat the information about how much the fans liked other candidates like a distance. If the fans liked another person a lot, then we assume that the two candidates are similar in some fashion. And, conversely, if the fans don't like some other candidate, then we assume that those candidates are not very similar.

From the distances between people, there's no way to get a consistent image and any attempt is going to produce a slightly different result, depending on the strategy you use. Warren's fans are 2 away from Biden, and Biden's fans are 0.8 away from Warren. And finding any agreement between 3+ candidates is basically impossible. I could have written a program to munge everything together to get something that was better at factoring every single relationship and averaging it all out, but I've just done the work by hand, fiddling with it until the results pass a smell test.

The circles are the best result that the candidate got and the worst result. The best result is saying, "My candidate was this far away from being exactly what I want in a President." And the worst result is saying, "I ain't gonna vote for no one past here."

From the results, I had to try and figure out what, if any, axis there might be. I've rotated it so that - I'm guessing - how far left a person is shows up on the x axis. I'm not sure what the y axis is. Maybe appeal to younger voters? General charisma? Hard to say, it's possibly a mixture of a few things.

The better takeaway from the image, is the determination of "presidentiality". If we know that someone wasn't perfect compared to what their fans were really dreaming of, that doesn't tell us which direction they needed to go to have achieved that success. But, once we know how far away from perfection multiple people are, we can try to triangulate. That position will be near where all of their distance markers come to a shared point or (more likely) overlap.

Of course, there could be different sub-populations within the voting base, with different ideas of perfection.

Overall, the best result based on the small size of Harris' bubble and the fact that it overlaps with three other candidate's close-miss zone would be the red area just to the right of Harris. Second to that are the shared areas (in blue) between Booker, Buttigieg, and Biden and the one between Biden, O'Rourke, and Warren. Like Harris, Warren had a pretty good result, indicating that there's a perfection zone near her, so the triple overlap seems more likely to be an indication that there's some "there" there.

Assuming that the debate results are consistent with future results, I think it's safe to say that Sanders is out, since he is too far away from what the voters seem to be looking for in this election.

O'Rourke is probably a no-win. Warren has a pretty clear advantage over him for their shared space.

Biden is also probably out. His fans' idea of perfection is plausibly in range of Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg. But that feeling isn't reciprocated. Biden himself (his dot) is outside of all other drift zones and he's completely out of the electability zone for the Sanders crowd.

Warren has a pretty clear opening to stay through to the final two, if there is in fact an electability zone where we predict. Though, we wouldn't expect her to be the ultimate victor since she really only has some Biden voters that she can plausibly inherit.

Booker is at a pretty strong disadvantage since he's further from where he needs to be than both Buttigieg and Harris. He could receive voters from Booty, but it's not clear why they would go that direction.

Buttigieg has the advantage that he's actually within an electability zone, can take voters from both Biden and Booker, and is the correct direction for the voters to move.

Though, obviously, Harris is even better situated since she's the closest to the most likely point of Presidential Perfection, her fans ain't going nowhere else, while being a receiver for Booty and Biden's voters.
Old 07-03-2019, 09:50 PM
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The candidates are basically in lockstep compared to Republicans. This race is going to come down to personal attacks and self promotion because the candidates are too afraid of shrieking mobs to differentiate themselves on policy.
Old 07-03-2019, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by WillFarnaby View Post
The candidates are basically in lockstep compared to Republicans. This race is going to come down to personal attacks and self promotion because the candidates are too afraid of shrieking mobs to differentiate themselves on policy.
While I haven't paid too much attention to the policies of the candidates, in general the Republican party is the one which is more strict about platform purity. Their voter base is the minority, so they have to play things tighter in order to stay competitive. You can't be pro-choice, pro-tax, or anti-gun and be a Republican.

In general, though, neither party is very creative. The most you ever see from either one is that a person steps across the aisle. It's all very binary with no one looking ahead or striking out for new territory. Even Trump, for as wild as he may seem, is just executing the party line as handed down lo' these many years ago - he's just trying to do all the stuff that everyone always talked about but never did because those things were only ever part of the platform to rope in the rubes, not because anyone actually thought it was a smart idea. Trump doesn't care about whether things are smart or not, just gaining adoration.

Complain about the Democratic party all you want, but if that's your grudge, I'd say that you're ignoring the much vaster picture.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 07-03-2019 at 10:31 PM.
Old 07-03-2019, 11:15 PM
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Nice use of multidimensional scaling, Sage Rat — thanks! I was introduced to this technique back in the 1980s in geographer Peter Gould’s book, where he cited a map of “Montague space” and “Capulet space” based on the number of lines spoken between characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

My takeaway from your chart is that Buttigieg deserves a closer look than I had given him based on my initial impressions following the first debate (the chatter was mainly about Harris and Castro, with Warren holding steady). Perhaps especially as a veep candidate. Though I personally think he’s rather too young and inexperienced.
Old 07-04-2019, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by willfarnaby View Post
the candidates are basically in lockstep compared to republicans.
Old 07-04-2019, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
F... show how much the fans of one person liked a different person ...
Can explain your rationale for how this data shows that?

A perception that someone did well does not mean one likes them? I can hate someone and disagree with all of their positions and still judge their debate performance as excellent. I can love someone and still appreciate that they performed poorly in a debate. I loved Obama from before the cycle began and throughout and still judged his first debate performance against Romney as disappointing and judged Romney as performing well. It did not correlate with my liking Romney in any way.

Are you assuming that the differences in relative judgement means who they like more?

I'd guess that being second choice in polling would be a better option for creating a distance for the "like" metric than how well they think they performed on the debate.


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